By Jason Warner – One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they get caught up in the tactics of their job at a particular company, and they then don’t do anything to advance their career beyond their current employer. This is a significant error in life strategy.
I see people all the time, maneuvering inside a corporation to reach their goals. In the old talent economy, it was sufficient to network inside the company, and work on extra projects outside your department in order to be well positioned to earn the much coveted “consistently exceeds” on your annual review. In the new talent economy you have to take that one step further, and make yourself valuable outside your company as well.
Here are five ways to advance your career beyond your current employer:
1. Set aside a significant amount of time each week.
It’s important to realize that in a corporate environment, there will almost always be more work than time and resources allow. In fact, many companies manage expenses by employing an N-1 strategy to control costs. If the company needs N resources, they’ll only resource to N-1 (or N-10 sometimes). For a variety of reasons, this tactic controls costs, creates flexibility in managing expenses, and forces some degree of prioritization.
If you are the one willing to make up for the lack of resources, knock yourself out. I’m not suggesting that you do the bare minimum at your job, but I am suggesting that you spend a little of your weekly efforts towards advancing your career beyond your current employer.
2. Network for the sole purpose of building relationships.
Building a network has to be an ongoing, authentic pursuit. I recommend at least an hour a week of tactical, outbound, relationship-building efforts. Focus on trying to find ways to help other people. But make smart choices about who you network with.
Also, if you wait until you need a job, networking is largely ineffective. Nobody wants to hear from you only when you need something. I’m always trying to network, not because I’m looking for the next great job, but because it’s part of my overall life strategy.
3. Be online.
I recommend that everyone have a blog, and I predict that for top talent, blogs will become more important than resumes. (In some ways this may already be true.) If you’re going to blog, I recommend writing at least one or two posts week, and more if you can swing it. (Admittedly this is hard to do unless you are exceptionally talented or have no life.)
If a blog isn’t for you, at least become active online, either by participating in discussion forums, writing on distribution lists, or commenting on influential people’s blogs. You never know what connections will develop that might lead to career opportunity (or maybe you’ll even meet your mate).
Overall, online pursuits should be at least one hour a week. I probably do four hours a week, which consists mostly of writing for my blog and commenting on other blogs.
4. Understand the space you’re in.
Get to know whatever segment in whatever industry you are choosing to exist in. You need to know who the players are in the space you want to play. This understanding will help augment and align your networking efforts.
Some people actively make lists of the people they want to meet in their industry, and then start a targeted connection campaign. I prefer a more organic approach, and I simply try to authentically make human connections when there seems to be a reasonable opportunity to do so. You should spend an hour a week reading and exploring the industry you work in.
5. Give back.
Find ways to give back to the industry in which you work, for at least an hour a week. This can comprise many different efforts, from speaking at conferences, writing for journals, or simply attending industry events. Get involved in an industry-related non-profit organization. If there isn’t one in your area, start one, and it will give you an excuse to meet lots of people. Giving back to your industry is a way to further your career, and also to make yourself feel good.